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Sodium High

Why you might want to watch your salt intake, even if you don’t have high blood pressure.

By
Monica Reinagel, M.S.,L.D./N
September 24, 2008
Episode #010

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Sodium and High Blood Pressure

The recommended maximum intake for sodium is about 2400 mg a day, which is roughly one teaspoon of table salt. Most Americans eat about twice that much, and that upsets the people whose job it is to worry about your health. And I’m not just talking about your mother and me. There are whole government agencies that lay awake at night worrying about your sodium intake.

Their main concern is that eating a lot of salt can raise your blood pressure, and that can be quite dangerous. Now, in all honesty, a high-sodium diet doesn’t lead to high blood pressure in everyone, and some people have high blood pressure even when they eat a very low-sodium diet. But public health policy is all about playing the numbers. The government figures that if everyone ate less salt, fewer people would develop high blood pressure, have strokes, and die, and that would be a good thing.

But if you don’t have high blood pressure, does it really matter how much sodium you eat? Actually, it may matter more than you think.

Other Reasons to Curtail Your Sodium Intake

Eating too much salt can also affect the health of your bones. When you eat a lot of salt, your body ends up losing more calcium through your urine. To compensate, your body draws on its calcium reserves—your bones. So, a high-sodium diet can be a risk factor for developing osteoporosis. This is especially true if you’re not getting enough calcium in your diet.

On a more cosmetic note, eating a lot of salt can cause your body to retain extra water weight. Retaining water isn’t the same thing as gaining weight because you’re eating too many calories. But it can still make your jeans tight. The good news is that water weight is a lot easier to lose than fat. You can simply reduce your sodium intake.

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